HomeFEATURESWhat to expect on the retail rollercoaster this year

What to expect on the retail rollercoaster this year

The world of retail has been in overdrive since 2020, and there’s plenty more in store for the years ahead. Courtney Devereux uncovered the must-know retail trends from Advertising Week’s 2021 New York Trends Report, and has the good oil for Kiwi brands going into 2022.

As the saying goes, there are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen. Anyone in retail definitely understands this concept after the challenges and disruptions of the last few years.

But as New Zealand emerges from its Covid-induced coma, it’s interesting to see how some of the world’s biggest retailers are reshaping relationships with consumers.

Few places bring together the giants of retail quite like Advertising Week New York. One of the biggest marketing conferences on the planet, it recently played host to the likes of Walmart, Target and Amazon, as well as a host of hot to trot direct-to-consumer brands.

Whilst many of these companies have budgets Kiwi marketers can only dream of, their core tactics and ways of interacting with customers can be implemented without breaking the bank. Here are a few of the most pertinent lessons from the event.

Social Justice Retailers

After so many months of relative isolation, unsurprisingly one of the biggest themes at this year’s event was connectivity. Connecting your brand to consumers, your story to future generations, and connecting internally to your brand’s higher purpose were all hot topics.

And there’s good news here: connecting with consumers is something Kiwi brands can excel at.

Our small market is a perfect testing ground for brands to experiment while still staying true to their purpose. Many brands are now stoking the idea behind ‘brand love’, and for Nina Ahuja, Head of Business Development at circular shopping software firm Trove, this is now even more important.

“Luckily for many retailers, the rise in e-commerce has created an incredible opportunity to speak to a younger generation of consumers who really care about brands. They want a process of connection that has a feel-good element to it,” she says.

Alongside the feel-good element of purchasing something that aligns with your values, consumers and particularly Gen Z are demanding authenticity. In New Zealand, Gen Z is our second biggest demographic at over 1.5 million people, so it makes sense that many brands now are looking at how to connect with this cohort

Ashley Rudder, Head of Creators at influencer platform Whalar, agrees that if there’s one thing Gen Z demands, it’s authenticity.

“Gen Z are now so aligned with their environment it’s forcing companies to pay attention. We’re now questioning everything we’re doing to ensure we’re leaving this world a better place for them,” says Rudder.

Kiwi brands can do this through leaning into the creative community across channels Gen Z frequent. NZ On Air, for example, has recently funded a range of programming on TikTok, using creators to connect with consumers on the app. The launch of ‘Every Voice’ is a new initiative to support diverse and distinct creators to make innovative content exclusively for the platform.

Partner up on data

Data and the cookieless future were also hot topics at Advertising Week.

And the question on everyone’s lips:o what’s the solution to the problem of the crumbling cookie? According to Jay Prasad, CSO at LiveRamp ‘data collaboration’, it’s the marrying of first and second party data.

Prasad says this data collaboration will give retailers, both globally and locally, more power once Google Chrome blocks all cookies from its browsers in 2022. “With data collaboration, brand marketers can actually create a super addressable viewing segment that’s been collaborated on to be created. And it’s being done with privacy respected on both sides,” he explains.

In practical terms this means Kiwi brands are going to have to find allies to help them match their data, as well as discovering new ways for them to create first-party data. This means creating new reasons for people to log in or engage in another data-compliant way with your brand.

Alongside data collaboration, New Zealand-based retailers and brand marketers can begin to fortify their first party data through omnichannel analytics. With consumers now shopping both online and offline, brands need to utilise data from multiple sources to optimise both store processes and enhance consumer service.

Mighty Ape is an example of a Kiwi pioneer in this space. Its focus on using customer data to offer deals and promotions exclusive to that customer has seen them rated one of New Zealand’s favourite retailers according to Consumer NZ.

The Golden Goose of Omnichannel

The rise of online shopping, spurred on by extended lockdowns, drove awareness of an online approach across the whole retail industry. Yet in New Zealand, with snap lockdowns and uncertainty around retail capacity, a clear omnichannel approach is more important than ever.

As Kiwis, and predominantly Aucklanders, exit a very extended lockdown, the eagerness to get back into physical stores is growing. As Darren Herman, Operating Partner at Bain Capital says, while digital is a core focus, you need to make sure the in-real-life experience is equally good.

“Where we see high quality digital experiences fail now is when you deliver such great online moments that someone wants to go in-store, and you don’t have the offline experience to match,” says Herman.

As Kiwi brands return to relative normality, the importance of offering consumers a clear and frictionless cross-channel experience will be more important than ever.

Click and collect, search and rewards programs are examples highlighted in this year’s Advertising Week of how retailers and brand marketers can connect with their customers in an omnipresent way. Because we’re certainly not going back to the way things were.

Take The Warehouse Group, which has been a standard-bearer of retail omnichannel strategy for several years. The group’s online presence matched with its unforgettable red sheds makes them the perfect example of how you can connect with your audience online and offline and always get what you need, night or day.

The Aftershocks

Like every seismic event, the upheaval of 2020 is continuing to reverberate far and wide today.

At Advertising Week, Yehuda Shmidman, Chairman and CEO of WHP Global (owners of Macy’s and Toys R Us among many retail brands), spoke about people, partnerships and cultural principals being key factors as we negotiate the pandemic.

In his session, Shmidman sat down with Marc Mastronardi, Chief Store Officer of Macy’s Inc, to talk about their newly-announced partnership. Together they highlighted the importance of collaboration in the retail space.

“Ultimately, as we look forward, it’s the people component of the business that is exciting,” Mastronardi says.

“Our partnerships are what motivates us and these partnerships are going to become more important,” Shmidman adds.

Partnering with brands is a great way to multiply your marketing effort, find a new target audience and create unique products for die hard fans. This approach extends to partnerships  with celebrities and social media creators as well.

As McDonald’s found when it partnered with Travis Scott and Korean pop sensation BTS to curate their own meals, it opened up the brand to a whole new audience that conventional advertising may miss.

Locally we’ve seen examples such as Concepts for New Balance, Whittaker’s & Flox or even Karen Walker & Papinelle, where brands have created new partnerships to excite and delight consumers at a time when everything felt a bit stale. Rest assured, there will be more of this to come from savvy brands.

You can read all about these trends and more in the 2021 Advertising Week New York Trends Report.

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Courtney Devereux is a Communication Consultant at Clear Hayes and freelance business writer.